Post # 1
So, we live in a very high cost-of-living area, and everything is expensive. I cannot find an officiant for less than $300, and we’re writing our own vows, so all the officiant would say is “They’ve chosen to write their own vows…” and then “…they are now husband and wife, you may now kiss the bride.” And I can. not. justify. spending $300 for 20 minutes of someone’s time. The only non-expensive officiants require that you go through premarital counseling and pay for that before they will do the ceremony, and we just will not have time, because we’re LDR, and he’s moving here 3 months before the wedding and will be getting settled into a new job.
So, we’re considering taking care of the legal part at the courthouse the morning of the wedding, and then exchanging our own vows with no officiant for the ceremony. We’re having a really small wedding (40 or less guests…) and the venue/reception site were going to be the same, anyway. For us, the “important” part is exchanging our vows, and sharing this commitment with all of our family and friends bearing witness. The legal part isn’t what will feel “official” for us.
Is this a ridiculous idea? Is there any reasons I haven’t considered that we should just absolutely have an officiant for the public ceremony? We wanted to keep it short and sweet (no readings, or guests singing during the ceremony), so I’m not sure that there’s any benefit to paying an officiant who is experienced at keeping guests engaged, or being funny.
Post # 3
In Colorado you can marry without an officiant – check if DC does this. You sign the paper and declare your own marriage. In Jewish tradition the couple marries each other. We will officially be married when we have signed our Jewish wedding certificate before the actual wedding. The rabbi supplies blessings and traditions, but doesn’t do the marrying. One thing about having an officiant is they can direct the process. On the other hand if you’re just standing up there and saying your vows and that’s it, there’s not much to direct. I can imagine this would be quite beautiful. Alternatively, how about having a friend get ordained and be your officiant?
Post # 4
Consider having one of your friends get certified online to officiate. I think it is pretty cheap (like maybe $50) and then they could perform the ceremony for you. Or– if you want to go the morning-courthouse route you could always just have any person stand up there to say the 2 lines. I do think it would be a little weird with no one up there “running the show” but there is no reason you have to use one of the official people.
Post # 5
Maybe consider having a friend/relative get certified to do it? Or, they could just do it w/o being certified if you went to the courthouse that morning.
Post # 6
Well, we’re not having a seated ceremony, with an aisle, so…not much to “run.” We’re having a short intimate vow-exchange in front of this beautiful rock fireplace, with all of our friends/family gathered around, and then moving directly into the celebration.
I will definitely check if we can get married without an officiant, locally. Also, that’s a good idea to have a friend stand up there just to say those few things.
Post # 7
Well, in Baltimore you can have a friend get an online license to do a one time wedding… because a client of mine did that. I’m not sure in DC though…
I think you just need to check your marriage laws, you may HAVE to have a Justice of the Peace or minister or something…
Post # 8
My opinion is – either have a ceremony or don’t. If you want to get married at the courthouse, just have a reception with your guests. But if you do want some kind of ceremony, I would have an officiant there. I know you just want to exchange vows (and presumably rings). But you’re not just going to start vowing without a quick intro (i.e. Welcome everyone, bride and groom going to do the vows now). And you’ll need a pronouncement to indicate that the ceremony is finished. I think you can’t get around the basic ceremony structure: welcome, vows, rings, pronouncement, and it would be best to have someone doing the welcoming and pronouncement instead of you two. To avoid the costs, just ask a friend (that’s what we are doing).
Post # 9
As a pro officiant myself, I just have to note that there can be a whole lot more to a personal wedding ceremony that simply “Hi there, they’ve chosen to write their own vows… [vows]… OK, you’re married!” Your officiant can offer suggestions for rituals, readings, etc, that really work for you and your relationship and feel relevant and meaningful. Even if it’s a super short ceremony, it’s nice to have someone there to make it feel “official” as well as say some nice stuff about you and your family and friends.
I would reccomend meeting with a few officiants (or at least talking to them on the phone) to get an idea of the kind of ceremony you could have with an officiant before you decide to go the no officiant route at all. Another option would be to get married at the courthouse, then have a friend “lead” your ceremony, too.
Post # 10
@KLP: I think I remember looking before, and I’m almost certain you are required locally to have an officiant, but I will check again.
@Girlwitharing: I do see what you’re saying, about the structure of things being unavoidable, I just am not sure we have any friends or family who would be comfortable doing the welcome/pronouncement. I have experience in public speaking, so I know I would be fine saying “Thank you all for coming, we really appreciate you all being here and are excited to share our vows, and ask you all to bear witness and celebrate etc. etc. [commence vows], [exchange rings], kiss, and then the DJ (friend of ours) would play the celebratory “end ceremony” music, and there would be lots of hugs, etc.
@jessieblum: I was not trying to insult the need for an officiant, at all! I see where there would be a need for it in larger ceremonies, but we aren’t planning any rituals, or readings. I am a bit hesitant to talk to anyone locally, knowing the prices, because it feels like window shopping to me – pressing my nose against the window to look at something closer that ultimately, I can’t have.
The weirdest thing of all is – Future Father-In-Law is ordained but refuses to do the ceremony. All of our other friends are young, and Fiance is insistent on having an old officiant. I have no idea why, but I’m not pushing the issue. If I can convince him out of that, maybe we could just have our friend who is DJing do a bit of directing, since I know he has public speaking experience.
Post # 11
What about a JP? That way you don’t have to go to the courthouse to do it. The courthouse can come to you? Ok, strange way of putting that, but it’s an idea.
Post # 12
@ElusivePhoto – Explain your situation to the officiants. My fees range from $450 to $800, but that’s for my full custom weddings… if you wanted something a bit simpler, plus the legality, I’m often flexible about the price. Just make it clear what you are looking for, and let them know your budget.
Post # 13
Would your DJ friend become an officiant and do it? Then your DJ could perform the ceremony for others like yourselves who don’t want a big “ceremony” for a little extra money? My daughter and SIL had a short ceremony at their venue (Owned by a lawyer who did the ceremony and submitted the paperwork). He had been asked to be an officiant for another wedding before-and so he had already become an officiant. Funny, one of my daughter’s new friends and photographer/friend also is an officiant. So she could have done it too! It is another service these professionals could add to their services, so they may be very willing to do that for you. It sounds like it would be a pretty easy thing to do. It might provide them with more business. so it could be a win-win situation
Post # 14
I’d still have someone stand up there, even if they’re not an official officiant (if you can swing marrying yourselves legally). Just to act more as an MC… you know, to announce any readings or songs or ceremonies (e.g. candle ceremony), if you’re having anything like that?
Post # 15
If you are getting married in VA you should be able to hire a a civil celebrant for $50 (state law) – they will come to you!
Post # 16
I feel EXACTLY the same way.
Currently I am calling up local town halls for their officiant lists. I’ve called three local town halls thus far and 2 have given me 3 “officiants” to call each, at least. Another one gave me a two page list!
In there are retired judges, mayors, non denominational ministers.
One of the town halls told me specifically that the officiants on their list are not allowed to charge more than $75. So I’m thinking if that is the fee at town hall only…so say we double that (worst case scenario) for travel fee and tip it’ll still be ~$150. WAY more reasonable than the $500+ I was getting quoted.
We really do not need much. We just want someone legal!
Maybe try that route before completely foregoing getting “married” at your ceremony?